Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s Obama/Schenley students set to close remarkable year


Dynae Shaw

Dynae Shaw sat down and interviewed our Pittsburgh Ballet Students in mid April to get a feeling for their thoughts on the school and our city. On the heels of an earlier interview just before Christmas, we all kind of thought that the long, gloomy weather would have changed opinions of the girls, who come from places like South Carolina, Texas and Iowa. Oddly enough, that wasn’t the case.

There are a plethora of well-rounded students at Obama Academy. Along with academic achievement, and volunteer experience, they pick up a hobby and strive to excel in it. For some it’s a sport, for others it may be pottery, theater, steel band, creative writing, or even ballet. The Pittsburgh Ballet Theater students have been taking classes at Obama Academy for quite some time now; and they were interviewed at the beginning of their journeys. I did a follow up interview with the PBT dancers about their thoughts of Pittsburgh and Obama Academy, now that some time has gone by.

Previous article at : https://www.obamaeagle.org/in-depth/2010/12/15/pbt-dancers-make-ultimate-commitments/

PBT dancers—Erin McMahon, Alyssa Drake, Alice Wells, Shannon Toole, Elizabeth Truell and Gabrielle Becker

Q: What are your impressions of Pittsburgh now? Are they the same? And how?

Erin: They are still the same; I think the city is pretty and really nice.

Alyssa: They are still the same; I like the people, they are welcoming.

Alice: They are the same; I like that city feeling.

Shannon: I love this place and everything I have access to.

Gabrielle: My feelings are the same, it’s a nice town.

Elizabeth: I have grown to like it a little more.

Q: What are your feelings about this school? Are they the same? And how?

Erin: They are good, people are nice, classes are good.

Alyssa: I like this school, there’s pretty good teachers, like all the students.

Alice: I like it, everybody is nice, I made good friends.

Shannon: I like it a little more than before; I have developed some close relationships.

Gabrielle: I think it’s a nice school, I like the people, I think it’s fun and interesting.

Elizabeth: It’s very welcoming, friendly…I’ve grown to love US history, I feel like my French vocabulary is expanding.

Q: What is your ideal high school like?

All: Made of chocolate bricks and walls all held together with marshmallows.

Elizabeth: much bigger, more people in my grade

Q: What is it that you miss and don’t miss about home?

Erin: People and family, but I do not miss the weather, I like the cold.

Alyssa: Family and friends do not miss the snow from back home

Alice: Parents, family, friends, brother, house; I do not miss living without a roommate

Shannon: Friends and warm weather

Gabrielle: Family and friends do not miss the dress code

Elizabeth: Friends, family, special birthdays

Q: What is it about ballet that you enjoy so much?

Erin: The freedom of expression. Everything stops at the door. They pay to see a dance and not to find out what’s going on in your life.

Alyssa: Being able to act and portray different characters.

Alice: Everything… dancing makes you feel so pretty and good about yourself

Shannon: I am turning to modern dance next year, I really liked ballet, however I really love modern dance. Ballet is all about pleasing others. I just want to please myself.

Gabrielle: It has a self competitive aspect to it and it’s challenging.  I enjoy a challenge

Elizabeth: It’s an ongoing process to strive for perfection that’s never going to end, so you’ll never get bored with it. There’s always something you can fix

Q: Describe the pressure you are feeling at this point of the year

Erin: It’s hard and there are lots of arguments. It’s frustrating, yet at the end it makes you feel stronger.

Alyssa: Actually I feel less pressure here than back home. Back home there’s  a great deal of pressure to stay thin

Alice: It’s not like Black Swan. Yes, there’s the pressure of having to get better for yourself, and lots of mental and physical stress

Shannon: It’s immense, but I don’t feel as pressured right now

Gabrielle: Yes, immense. There are 26 girls behind you wanting to take your spot

Elizabeth: The pressure of recovering from an injury. You have no choice but to dance

Q: How hard is it to balance PBT and IB courses? If you feel it’s difficult, what gets you through it?

Erin: It’s not impossible, but it does get hard sometimes. You have to manage time

Alyssa: It’s not really all that hard

Alice: It’s not so bad; I only have 5 classes

Shannon: No, it’s not that bad. I am not in full IB, so I get lots of busy work

Gabrielle: It depends on the night. I try not to procrastinate, especially with long term projects

Elizabeth: Some nights it gets tough, but it’s really not that bad

Q: How do you feel about the weather now? Do you like it? Do you miss the weather at home?

Erin: the first day of sun I got burned. I like the cold by far

Alyssa: I like the weather better back home

Alice: Well, it’s much better now

Shannon: Winter has been way too long. I am ready for sun

Gabrielle: It’s not much of a change from home

Elizabeth: The weather is not my favorite. I mean it’s snowing in April, and it is sad to see the weather is 95 degrees at home and 50 here

Q: What are your expectations for upcoming shows?

Erin: Hopefully it’s good

Alyssa: I expect that it will come together by the end

Alice: It will be fun, yet I am really nervous

Shannon: I’m excited, and I think it will be good.

Gabrielle: Stay injury free, please the choreographers and directors

Elizabeth: Really good show, but we have a long way to go

Q: How have you improved since the beginning of this journey?

Erin: The increase of hours has helped. I have improved technically and the diversity of the school has helped me embrace and respect cultures more.

Alyssa: I have grown as a dancer

Alice: I’ve improved a lot, with more success

Shannon: I have had a good year

Gabrielle: I’ve seen definite improvement in everyone. I dance better. I am wiser as a person. I have more responsibility and am more mature.

Elizabeth: I’ve improved greatly; I’ve matured a lot

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will have its spring performance on May 27. For more information, visit http://www.pbt.org/school/performances